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Kevin's Keys to the Game
Saturday, November 4, 2006

By Kevin Monroe

Game 9: ECU at UCF

Each week, Kevin Monroe, Sideline Reporter for the Pirate ISP Sports Network, provides “Kevin’s Keys to The Game,” outlining what East Carolina must do to beat its opponent. Monroe brings a unique perspective to the task, not only as an analyst on the radio broadcast, but also as a former defensive back for the Pirates (1995-99).

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East Carolina can defeat Central Florida if it accomplishes these key objectives:

  1. Expect to Win: For the first time in a long time, the Pirates control their own destiny. They are in first place in the East Division of Conference USA and they don’t need anybody’s help. All the Pirates have to do is win and they will play for the conference championship.  Last Saturday’s win over Southern Miss was huge, and Tuesday’s UAB loss to Southern Methodist was just as big. East Carolina will probably be favored in every game from here until the end of the season, but if it doesn't play its best it can be beaten in every game. The Pirates need to develop a confident swagger that will give them the confidence to play anyone and think they can win. The expectation of victory will get you half way to your goal; then all you have to do is play the game. But when you fear losing or, worse, expect to lose, you will lose.

  2. Defense, Defense, DefenseThe reason ECU is leading the East Division is because it has played swarming defense all season. The Pirates rank third in the conference in scoring defense at 22 points per game and second in total defense, giving up only 330 yards per game. Young athletes like Quentin Cotton, Van Eskeridge, and Travis Williams have stepped up in crucial situations to make game-changing plays. Regardless of how the offense plays versus the Golden Nights, the defense can dictate whether the Pirates win or lose. The unit needs to play with the passion and intensity that has carried this team all season long. Central Florida junior quarterback Kyle Israel has completed 36 0f 60 passes in his only two starts of this season, but ECU has the best defense he will have seen thus far.

  3. Special Teams:  Punter Ryan Dougherty has just been named as a semifinalist for the Ray Guy list as one of the top 10 punters in the country. Freshman Kicker Ben Hartman is 3-4 in field goals and 7-7 in extra points since taking over for Robert Lee. Add to that, the return game finally broke the big one last week versus Southern Miss with Chris Johnson’s 96 yard kickoff return for a touchdown. It looks like offensive special teams has all come together, but defensively ECU gave up several long returns on kickoffs and punts last week and the Pirates cannot afford to do that against Central Florida.

  4. James Pinkney: The Pirates seem to go as James goes this season. When Pinkney plays well, East Carolina usually wins. Two games ago versus Southern Methodist, James threw for a career-high 391 yards and moved into a tie with Marcus Crandall for the most career 200-yard passing days. Having the conference’s best receiver doesn’t hurt, and now that Aundrae Allison is close to 100 percent, we can only expect this passing attack to get stronger. Central Florida is giving up 250 yards passing per game and East Carolina is averaging 244 per game. Expect James to have a big day versus the Golden nights, because if he doesn’t it will be tough for the Pirates to get this victory on the road.

The Bottom Line: This is another big conference game for the Pirates and if they want to play for the league championship, this is a game they have to win. Next week's game against Marshall will also be huge, but the Pirates have to win this one first, to make that one important. ECU hasn’t won back to back games on the road in a while, but they should win this game on Saturday.

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02/23/2007 10:32:32 AM


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